Worcester, Mass colleges

I visited Holy Cross, Assumption, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in March 2009 with other Jesuit high school counselors from around the country. In March 2012 I visited Clark University. Here are my impressions of all the colleges:
the college on the hill

The only Jesuit, undergrad-only college. There are 28 Jesuit colleges and universities, and Holy Cross is the only one that educates undergrads only.

Our tour guide was a senior Spanish major who spent her junior year abroad. She interviews applicants, is an ESL tutor and grew up in Philadelphia.

Another tour guide was from western Mass, a sophomore pre med major. Holy Cross' admit rate to med school is much higher than the national average of 40-48%. Organic chemistry, the most difficult class at HC, is the one course that usually helps students decide whether or not to stay pre med.The course is offered 2nd semester freshman year.

2900 students. 9 chaplains. The largest club on campus is SPUD, service projects run by students. Tutoring, working the soup kitchen and in shelters.
Holy Cross is known as a school that is more balanced politically than the other Jesuit colleges.
Only 10% live off campus.
As we toured campus, we saw clean cut, preppy, white, athletic students that leaned toward the wealthy type. The student panel:
  • Becky K, a Cheverus graduate who is one of 2 Fenwick Scholars at Holy Cross. Being a Fenwick scholar involves taking senior year and doing research and writing a paper. Three professors serve as advisors, and her topic was the Philosophy of Religion and Edith Stein. She submitted a proposal junior year, presenging her 40 page paper in front of the President and Deans. The paper eventually turned into a 150 page thesis. She spent senior year reading, writing and researching, responding to suggestions from advisors.
  • Kevin is a freshman from Mass whose advice to high school seniors is: don't slack off senior year because when you get to college you'll be out of practice! He took one course over the summer to stay in shape.
  • Lindsey, a sophomore chem major who is on the premed track, an altar server, an admissions rep, and in the pep band. She is doing summer research to help police figure out the amount of drugs in a person's system.
  • Tara is a psych major from Mass, and president of her class. She spent spring break in D.C. with 15 other Holy Cross students. They had a regular job, 40 hours a week, with a health care non profit. They gathered once a week for a 3 hour seminar and read a book a week for the 16 week semester, and wrote a 50 page paper. She had 3 faculty advisors and had to present her paper to a panel, much like a doctoral candidate does. She tutors on Saturday with a group of other students.
  • a senior boy from Mass who is a history major and led a spring immersion trip and various campus retreats. He spent junior year abroad in Florence and lived with an Italian family. Each day he took 4 hours of a language class with other Holy Cross students. He took other college classes in Italian at the Univ of Florence. There was a Holy Cross advisor on site and everyone planned their classes in advance to make sure they graduated on time. (97% graduate in 4 years)
Kimball dining hall is a great place to hang out, with high ceilings, a huge fancy place with wooden tables and chairs for 12. Very Harry Potter-ish.
A new science building just opened.
Varsity athletes (D1 Patriot League) have a separate weight room. Popular spectator sports are football, baseball and basketball.
A bus to Boston and Providence each weekend provides an outlet for those who feel campus-bound.

They are looking for 5 academic solids all 4 years: English, language, math, science and history. They are a demonstrated interest school, and you must interview on campus. They admit about 1/3 of the applicants, but admit about twice that from Cheverus IF you have the 5 academic solids each year in Honors and AP, not just college prep classes and all As. They promise to meet full need, and financial aid is only need based, no merit money. Early Decision is about the only option for athletes. Football and basketball have the most flexibility in GPA, and the coach shows Admissions the transcript to see if he should continue talking with the recruit. Essays they are sick of reading: the athletic win or injury, and the essay about writing the essay.

Holy Cross is a very popular place for Cheverus graduates. I ran into senior math major Ben J, who had a job offer from Hanover Insurance. Six '08 graduates headed to Holy Cross and love it (Ted S, Heather M, Lizzie S, Colleen B, Caitlin D, Sam R) and two '09 graduates (Christine R and Liz K). Becky K just graduated from the Cross and gave the commencement address at Cheverus' 09 graduation. She heads to Yale in the fall for grad school. Fallon P '12, Paige S '13.

putting theory into practice

lots of large homes across the street are student housing. On a hill overlooking downtown Worcester. Freshman year, students must live on campus.

Lots of boys, scruffy, play video games all the time types. I heard twice that girls are the social ones running the clubs. Our tour guide was Indian and off to Purdue for grad school.

STUDENT PANEL (all from Mass and very smart and well spoken!)
  • one girl whose Dad went to WPI admitted it was not on her list and she applied to Northeastern but visiting WPI sealed the deal for her.
  • a senior from Mass who is a biomedical engineering major working on prosthetics: hip replacement in dogs. Will stay at WPI for his graduate degree. His dad went to WPI. He notes that it is not a jock school but there is lots of school spirit. He went abroad to South Africa.
  • a senior actuarial math major from Mass who visited Capetown South Africa to work on stats for a recreation center design. He had 4 job offers in October of senior year, and chose a job with Travelers Insurance.
  • A senior civil engineering major who traveled to Australia to work on handicapped access and transportation. She wants to go to grad school and is choosing between Tufts and Cornell.
  • A civil engineering major who worked on a sanitation project in Africa and has a job with Exxon after graduation. He was a chemical eng major and switched to civil/enviro. He is a music minor and plays in a band, volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, and his group raised $50,000 for Relay for Life. He is in a frat that is service-oriented.
  • WPI is the only school in the country that offers robotics engineering as a bachelors and masters.
  • This is an intensely academic place.
  • Half of the students are engineering majors; 2-3% are liberal arts majors.
  • Students can sample various engineering majors if they are unsure which one to choose
  • Grades are A/B/C with no plusses or minuses in an effort to reduce competition between students
  • Labs. Labs. Labs. WPI has a huge emphasis on labs and projects.
  • Quarter system means you take fewer classes per quarter but more in the academic year: 7 week quarters, 3 classes at a time
  • You can take 3 classes 'no record', used to push students to take risks and not worry about failing or their transcript.
  • Students take 6 classes in arts & humanities, such as Spanish and music.
Emily M, Ben L and Tim J graduated. Kaitlyn D, Cheverus '11, Abby H and Vivian L '12.

Forbes Magazine highlights WPI on their list  "make the most money after graduation".

They are not obsessed with AP courses, but would like to see college prep and harder courses with an A- average. 700 Math SAT and 600 CR and W, or 28-29 ACT. They cross apps with RPI, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, BU, RIT, Northeastern.

2100 students on a suburban campus with sprawling, forested and spacious areas.

D2. Play Bentley, Bryant.

Largest class size is 30.
Cheverus connections: Class of 2011: Lexi H, Liam H, Zach D.

challenge convention, change the world

Clark is #1 in the country for their psychology program.

Clark is a small liberal arts college of 2200 students in a residential community in the middle of Worcester, the 2nd largest city in New England.

They emphasize lots of experiential learning, ranging from study abroad to internships, to undergraduate research and service learning. You really do get to practice what you learn in the classroom.

This is not the college for a conventional, regular, student. You are quirky, with lots of outside interests and hope to actually change the world. You have a passion for something outside the classroom like music, art, activism.

If your GPA is a 3.4 or above after junior year at Clark, you can earn your masters degree at Clark tuition-free.

Clark is one of the 40 Colleges That Change Lives,  a terrific group of colleges whose entire focus is on teaching undergraduates, making a welcoming community for all, and focusing on student satisfaction and engagement in and out of the classroom.

Cheverus connections: Class of 2013: Erin F. 2011: Will M, Aubrey H. Class of 2010: Deb I.

Links verified 4/2013